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Lahey Health is now part of Beth Israel Lahey Health

by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Definition

Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. A bursa is a thin sac that lies between bone and soft tissue. It can be found near some joints. A healthy bursa lets muscles and tendons move smoothly over bone. Bursitis is more common in the:

  • Shoulder
  • Elbow
  • Knee
  • Hip
Bursitis in the Shoulder
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Causes

Bursitis may be caused by:

  • Injury to an area that contains a bursa
  • Repetitive stress on the bursa
  • Infection in a bursa
  • Long periods of pressure on a joint, such as leaning on elbows, sitting, or kneeling on hard surfaces
  • Health problems that cause inflammation in joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Repetitive motions, such as swimming, running, or tennis
  • A job that requires:
    • Repetitive motions, such as hammering or painting
    • Long hours in one position, such as a kneeling to put down carpeting
  • Contact sports
  • Sporting gear that is too tight
  • A puncture or deep cut that involves the bursa

Symptoms

Bursitis can cause:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Reddened skin
  • Warmth around the area of the bursa
  • Decreased motion of the nearby joint
  • Decreased movement or strength of the nearby limb

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to ease pain and promote healing. Choices are:

  • Supportive care, such as resting the area and applying cold compresses
  • Medicines to ease pain and swelling, such as:
    • Over the counter pain medicine
    • Steroids
  • Physical therapy to promote strength, flexibility, and range of motion

People who are not helped by these methods may need surgery.

Prevention

To lower the risk of this problem:

  • Exercise regularly to keep muscles strong
  • Slowly increase the intensity and duration of activities
  • Use the right safety gear and techniques when playing sports
  • Use proper safety equipment at work
  • Take breaks from repetitive tasks

RESOURCES

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians  http://familydoctor.org 

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons  http://orthoinfo.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Association of General Surgeons  http://www.cags-accg.ca 

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation  http://www.canorth.org 

References

Bursitis. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center website. Available at: http://wexnermedical.osu.edu/patient-care/healthcare-services/arthritis-rheumatology/bursitis. Accessed January 29, 2021.

Bursitis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/bursitis. Accessed January 29, 2021.

Elbow (olecranon) bursitis. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00028. Accessed January 29, 2021.

Hip bursitis. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00409. Accessed January 29, 2021.

Prepatellar bursitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/prepatellar-bursitis. Accessed January 29, 2021.

Reid CR, Bush PM, et al. A review of occupational knee disorders. J Occup Rehabil. 2010 Dec;20(4):489-501.

Revision Information